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So You Want to Start Your Own Graphic Design Business: How to Get Started

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If you are confident in your design skills, you are ready to lay the groundwork for your own business. This is not something you can do overnight, but you should be able to launch your business in one to three months. You'll have to work on many different aspects of your entrepreneurial enterprise at the same time.

Editor's Note: This is part 2 of a 5-part series. Read part 1, Are You a Good Candidate? and look for a link to the next part on the last page of this article.

You've decided that you've got what it takes to start your own graphic design business—you have the traits of an entrepreneur and you have the design skills. Hopefully, you've been honing your design skills as well as your photo editing, copy writing, and HTML/CSS programming skills.

In preparation for opening your new business, you should have been building a portfolio of work. This can be work that you've done for friends and relatives or just as examples. It can be work that you've been paid for or work you've done for free. It doesn't matter as long as you have something to show potential clients.

One very helpful thing you can do is design some website templates in different categories. You might design some templates for different types of businesses (attorneys, restaurants, specialty shops, dentists, and so on); or you can design templates with different themes, such as professional, technical, edgy, juvenile, wild, conservative, grungy, and so on.

If you are confident that your skill level is adequate, you're ready to start laying the groundwork for your own business. Notice that I said "adequate." You don't have to feel like you're at the top of your game to get started. You need to jump in and realize that your skills will improve, and you always can use other resources if something is too difficult for you to do yourself.

Obviously, you can't get everything in place overnight, but you should be able to launch your business in one to three months. The timing depends on how much time you have to devote to it, how fast you work, and how much money you have to invest up front. You'll have to work on the creative side and the business side of your entrepreneurial enterprise at the same time.

On the creative side, you need to design your own logo, website, printed materials, and sales collateral. Do I need to say this? Your logo, your website, and your materials must all be stellar! Clients definitely will judge the quality of your work by what you have designed for yourself. Additionally, your website needs to come up high in the search listings.

Naming Your Business

Of course, before you start designing anything, you have to decide on a business name. This requires some research. You don't want to come up with a name that someone else is using because legally they can make you stop using it. That's a disaster you don't want to have to contend with, so your name has to be unique, and it should be one that you can reserve as a domain name as well.

When you decide on your name, go to the website for the Secretary of State for your particular state and make sure no one else in the state is using the name you want. Next, you should search the Internet for the name and see whether it's being used anywhere else in the nation. If you find the name being used for a graphic design business, you'll need to find another name.

There are so many design companies out there that you really have to think outside the box to come up with a unique name. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use words that you normally don't see used together, such as "Plaid Lion Design."
  • Use a foreign word in your name, such as "Grazie Design."
  • Use a made-up word, such as "Fabrific Design."
  • Use a phrase that is not normally associated with graphic design, such as "Neck Tie Design."
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